Far from home

Studying abroad is more challenging, but also more interesting.


Mien Le

A photo of Mien Le’s hometown, Danang City, Vietnam. It was taken four months before Mien left to study abroad in the U.S.

Mien Le, Columnist

Studying abroad in the US was my dream when I was a child. I made my dream come true at 18. August 11, 2019, I left Vietnam and put my first steps on the US land.

I used to figure out a beautiful life I would have in America. I would join the party every day. I would stay up late until 2 a.m. without my mom’s reminder. I would hang out to chill overnight and be in a relationship with anybody I like. I could do anything I wanted. I would be free.

However, my imagination was not true. My first day of Hamline was filled by tears and homesickness. I missed my family. I missed the Vietnamese food. I missed my hometown, where I cried and laughed like a crazy person. 

“The main thing that caused homesickness was the food, which is very spicy. And everything here is kind of tasteless,” Mariana Gomes Garcia, an exchange student from Brazil, shared with me.

What were the reasons that motivated me to be here? I felt lost. Who was I? What am I doing in the US? These questions made me exhausted. I slept and continued to cry after waking up. But at that time, I did not know that it was just the beginning. The most difficult time was the first two weeks of school. In classes when my professor and my friends were both talking, I could not understand them both, so I did not totally understand all my lessons. Therefore, I stayed silent. Sometimes, I stayed up late until 2 a.m. to finish my reading assignments. Everything was so challenging to me. I was lonely. 

But America did not make me disappointed. Having been at Hamline for two months meant learning many great things and broadening my horizons. From having no friends, now all my friends are international students, and of course, American students, too. 

Jie Zheng, my friend who is an exchange student from China said: “I want to make friends with others without their background.” 

My friends help me to know more about different cultures. They spend their time editing my assignments and making notes about the lessons I could not understand. They talk, share, laugh and joke with me. They are always by my side whenever I need them. They inspire me about the real values I have. 

And my professors give me a deeper understanding not only about my major but also my skills, which makes learning become greater in the academic community. 

Luca Gronimus, who is an exchange student from Germany, said, “My academic experience in the US is more interesting and practical.” 

The teachers let me know I am not inferior. They motivate me, guide me and give me useful advice for improving myself day by day to be a more professional individual. For the first time ever in my life, I know about the value of trust, which does not force me to experience what other people did but helps me to totally empathize and sympathize with them. Belief, in other words, is sharing. 

Sometimes, when I post something about the obstacles I must overcome in the US, my Vietnamese friends tell me that I should give up and go home. I know they want the best things for me, but my happiness is not something called “settle down and get married with a rich man, then live happily with husband’s money.” 

My happiness is the moment when I know that women can get married whenever they want, my friends are proud of their own culture, religion and race, people protect others who have different backgrounds from them. My happiness is also when I learn that I cannot judge or show prejudice to people by their skin color, hair, tattoos and piercing. My happiness, more than marrying a rich husband, is when I know I love and be loved by people from a lot of countries over the world.

Being far from home is difficult, but it isn’t meaningless. Study abroad while you can. To learn. To grow up. To appreciate what we have. And to know that we are not alone. Because we always have someone who loves us, no matter where we go.